Are we all working too hard? During the 19th century, labour leaders campaigned for the “eight-hour day”. Until that point, it was common to work six days a week, with a typical working day of between 10-16 hours. New technologies and stricter labour laws seemed to be paving the way for an increased life of leisure, with the economist John Maynard Keynes going so far as to predict a 15-hour week within a century.
In recent years, some companies have been trailing a four-day work week. One New Zealand firm has recently declared its experiment a resounding success, arguing that its employees are much more productive if they have more time to recuperate and balance other commitments. Proponents argue that a shorter working week favours employees looking for more flexibility, including people trying to balance caring for children or other family members. However, some argue that stress levels can actually go up, as employees are expected to do more with less time, and they see a four-day work week as an excuse to cut salaries while expecting workers to do the same amount of work.
In the Netherlands, it is already common for employees to take a “mummy day” or “daddy day” off each week to look after their kids. The Dutch work on average only around 29 hours a week, yet the Netherlands is still one of the wealthiest countries in the world, with a GDP per capita of over $50,000. Should more countries follow their lead?
Should everyone have a four-day work week? Are we all working too hard? Could a four-day work week promote lower stress levels and happier, more productive employees? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!